The Importance of Letting Your Kids Fail
I’m an air sucker. It’s a family trait. My mom is an air sucker, too. When we see someone fall, get hurt, do something risky or dangerous, we take a sharp inhalation of breathe.
As a mom, I’ve sucked a lot of air and my kids aren’t even ten! Watching my kids try new things that I know can potentially hurt them, physically or emotionally, can be incredibly uncomfortable.
(I still dislike riding my bike behind my son. It leads to very vivid images of all of the horrendous ways he could crash.)
Helicopter parents means being overprotective and taking an excessive interest in your children’s lives and decisions. The intent is positive and even loving by the parents. But the result for the kids leads to dependency and lack of ability.
I have seen this with some of my adolescent and teenage clients whose parents help them and rescue them from all situations.
And the kids are struggling.
We can see this on a larger societal scale. No more red marks from teachers – the kids might feel bad. Use a more cheerful color. No more keeping score – the kids might feel bad. Everyone gets a participatory ribbon or trophy – we want everyone to feel like a winner.
And our youth and young adults are struggling.
I’m not suggesting we entirely take on a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ type mentality. But society has swung so far in the opposite direction that we have an epidemic of young adults not knowing how to handle life.
But this is what I know. Our kids NEED to fail sometimes. We have to let them fall. Without experiences of disappointment, let-downs, and even pain they will lose out on valuable lessons.
Our kids NEED to fail sometimes. We have to let them fall. Without experiences of disappointment, let-downs, and even pain they will lose out on valuable lessons.
If a child never has to face hardships or overcome obstacles, there is no need for courage. There becomes the expectation that someone else will do it for them. They can become complacent and entitled.
Even worse, there becomes the belief that they aren’t capable of achieving something on their own. And they remain timid.
Joshua 1:9 (NIV)Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
I often meet with kids who struggle with approach/avoidance. That means looking at a situation and deciding if it is something they will approach (do, tackle, take-on) or if it something they are going to avoid. All of us makes this decision multiple times a day.
We (sometimes unknowingly) evaluate if we believe it is a situation or task we can handle. We judge if we believe we have the skill, knowledge, strength, etc. to complete the challenge.
If a child is use to his/her parents doing everything for them or fighting their battles, they won’t approach. They avoid the situations and then they never learn perseverance.
Perseverance is steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
It hurts to watch our kids be in pain and fail. But we have to encourage their efforts and not rush in to rescue and fix.
One of the top reasons why children and families are in my therapy office is because of an inability to tolerate distress.
Disappointment happens and the child doesn’t know what to do or how to handle it. That leads to sadness and/or anxiety. And that often leads to anger and behaviors.
The parents tend to either placate to the child to alleviate the distress to reprimand the behaviors. But neither one teaches the child how to endure and overcome the distress.
No one likes disappointment but it is a matter of being able to tolerate the experience of negative emotion long enough to then do something about it.
This is why college professors are having parents call and chew them out for their child’s low grade. Our young adults are struggling to handle the distress of life.
Psalm 119:143Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight.
All of the above characteristics then leads to growth. This is true for our children and us in our everyday life and this is also true of our spiritual journey.
John 15:1-8 (NIV)“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
I pray that this post encourages you to allow your children to fail. To encourage them to that ‘yes’ life is hard. But they have you as their cheerleaders and God as their guide. They have the ability to do great things!
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